Kyle McCarter grilled on gay rights and refugees

What you need to know:

  • But the session’s most dramatic moment came when Mr McCarter was rebuked by Senator Tim Kaine, the vice-presidential nominee on the 2016 Democratic Party ticket headed by Hillary Clinton.

  • Senator Kaine said he was “completely perplexed” by a McCarter posting on Twitter on the night of Mr Trump’s election victory.

  • “Hillary for Prison. No, really,” the tweet stated.

President Donald Trump’s nominee for the post of ambassador to Kenya faced sharply critical questioning on Tuesday from some members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kyle McCarter, a Republican lawmaker in the Midwestern state of Illinois, was challenged on his opposition to gay-rights legislation and to the refugee-admission policies of the Obama administration.

CLINTON

But the session’s most dramatic moment came when Mr McCarter was rebuked by Senator Tim Kaine, the vice-presidential nominee on the 2016 Democratic Party ticket headed by Hillary Clinton.

Senator Kaine said he was “completely perplexed” by a McCarter posting on Twitter on the night of Mr Trump’s election victory.

“Hillary for Prison. No, really,” the tweet stated.

Senator Kaine noted that he had spent time in countries where opponents of a ruling party are imprisoned for their political views.

Such repression is antithetical to the principles of US democracy, the Virginia Democrat told Mr McCarter.

“Do you honestly believe Hillary Clinton should be in prison?” Senator Kaine asked.

“I am not one to say anyone should be accused unjustly,” Mr McCarter replied.

“There is hype in an election that was perhaps not called for.”

COMMENTS

Unsatisfied, Senator Kaine said in return, “These are not helpful comments from someone being asked to represent the United States abroad.”

The senator pressed Mr McCarter on the Twitter remark, asking if he “had cause to think about that and repent of it.”

“It was perhaps not the wisest of tweets,” Mr McCarter acknowledged.

Senator Kaine again confronted Mr McCarter on this point.

“How does a thought like that come into the brain of someone?” he asked.

“It seems so contrary to the values of a democratic society.”

Mr McCarter responded: “It is one of those tweets you’d like to reel in but can’t.”

Three other Democratic senators on the panel considering Mr McCarter’s nomination also suggested that aspects of his record may not suit him for an ambassadorial posting.

REFUGEES

Senator Chris Murphy took issue with tweets Mr McCarter had posted attacking President Obama’s welcoming approach toward refugees.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Mr McCarter “would be going to a country that hosts 500,000 refugees,” Senator Murphy noted.

And it is US policy to encourage Kenya to take in refugees from Somalia and other troubled African countries, the senator from the state of Connecticut added.

It may be incongruous for a US ambassador to Kenya to have a record of calling for tighter restrictions on refugee admissions, Senator Murphy suggested.

“The only concern I have is the proper vetting” of refugees, Mr McCarter said in response.

“I am as welcoming as anyone if proper vetting is carried out.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen raised concerns about Mr McCarter’s opposition as a state legislator to same-sex marriage and to proposals allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

LGBT MEET

She asked Mr McCarter whether he would commit to meet with leaders of Kenya’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Mr McCarter, the director of a Christian ministry in Kenya that aids orphans and HIV-positive men and women, did not respond directly to that query.

He noted that Kenyan courts have addressed the possibility of decriminalising homosexual acts.

“I support that,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

“Discrimination of any sort should not be allowed,” he added.

Senator Cory Booker returned later in the hearing to the question of whether Mr McCarter would meet with prominent members of Kenya’s LGBT community.

The nominee then pledged to arrange such a gathering.

Mr McCarter’s work in Kenya with the Each One Feed One charity that he co-founded with his parents has been cited by his supporters as a prime qualification for the US embassy post in Nairobi.

'HANDSHAKE'

Mr McCarter and his wife, Victoria, who has also worked at the ministry in Kenya, are both fluent in Swahili.

Little attention was given in Tuesday's hearing to US-Kenya relations or to political tensions affecting Kenya.

In a prepared statement he read to the committee, Mr McCarter characterised Washington's ties with Nairobi as "strong."

Asked about the dialogue initiated by President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, Mr McCarter said "ethnic divisions have been an issue," and he added, "these things don't get better overnight."

Devolution may help reduce tensions, he said, expressing hope that "new leadership" will emerge at local levels in Kenya.

Despite the grilling he received on Tuesday, Mr McCarter remains likely to win confirmation as the successor to Ambassador Robert Godec.

Both the Foreign Relations Committee and the full US Senate are controlled by Republicans who can be expected to vote in favour of Mr McCarter’s nomination in the next few weeks.

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